Apparently certain Mad Men fans are like the show’s narrative progress or one of Betty’s dinner parties or from-scratch cakes: they take their time and don’t rush it.
So before the last season kicks off Sunday on AMC at 10 p.m., here is what you need to know (warning: if you are a binge-watcher and haven’t gotten to season six, stop reading now or forever hold your spoiler-griping):
Season six was a treasure trove of secret dalliances and spurned affection. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) gets kicked out by his wife Trudy (Alison Brie) for having an affair with a neighbor, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has an affair with neighbor Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) and Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) has an affair with boss Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm). And, interestingly, Don and his ex-wife Betty (January Jones) sleep together, though they move on to their separate lives – and marriages – by the next morning.
And the sex gets kinky
Don goes all 50 Shades of Grey on Sylvia and Don’s wife Megan (Jessica Paré) is propositioned for an orgy and a lesbian affair. Enough said.
Business is still unusual
Between all that sex and drugs (we’ll get to that later), there is the rock & roll of the ad business. After a Heinz ketchup vs. Heinz baked beans debacle and some other snafus (Pete loses Vicks Chemical Company after he runs into his father-in-law at a brothel. Because, yeah, that could happen back then), Ted and Don decide to merge their companies in an effort to win a new Chevy account. The company’s eventual new name: Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Joan is still a scene stealer
In one of the season’s most gripping, controversial, conversation-inducing moments, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) accepts the advances of a Jaguar client for a partner’s stake in the business. Don, who experienced flashbacks over his mother’s prostitute past, has one of his most humane moments when he rushes to her apartment and tells her she doesn’t have to go through with the smarmy task (which she unfortunately already did). Don later fires Jaguar, much to Joan’s chagrin over her wasted, now-null efforts.
History pops up again
Often clunky in execution, real world events poked through the plot per usual. This season: during an advertising awards ceremony, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is announced and riots ensue. Two episodes later, Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated. Vietnam also swirls in the background, popping up in Sylvia’s worry over her son and Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson), whose cousin was killed in the war.
Drugs play a part
It is the sixties after all: on a trip to Los Angeles (and in a trip reminiscent of his lost days in Palm Springs in season 2), Don smokes some hashish. He winds up facedown in the pool and is saved by Roger Sterling (John Slattery). He hallucinates about Megan, but does he really learn anything? No, not really, and again has sex with Sylvia the next episode.
Oh, the children
Speaking of sex with Sylvia, Don’s post-LA tryst was witnessed by his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka), who is barreling dangerously fast towards her own adulthood (hello her white go-go boots and crushes!) and has lost all faith in the adults in her life.
Don crashes and burns, but still shows signs of possible redemption
In the final episode, after giving an amazing pitch to Hershey, Don implodes and reveals his orphan-raised-in-a-brothel background. He then implodes his relationships with Peggy and Megan when he allows Ted to take the Sunkist account and the transfer to California – breaking Peggy’s Ted-loving heart and Megan’s Hollywood dreams. Still, the last scene has secretive Don showing his two children the ramshackle home he grew up in. Dare that show signs of growth?
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